My Last School Night

It’s been awhile since my last post, but I was busy. In the last five months I finished my last semester of college. WHAT?! Tomorrow I will take my very last college final and in two days I will graduate from the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

I suppose now is as good a time as any to tell the story of when I knew I was where I want meant to be. When I was in 7th or 8th grade we came to Madison to visit for my brother to look at the school and audition for the music department. We parked next to the Humanities building. For those that have never been to Madison, this is notoriously one of the ugliest buildings on campus. Originally built during the nuclear bomb threat era it looks like a bomb shelter and has zero architectural value. Anyway it was April in Wisconsin so that means rainy/slushy and basically an extended winter. I sat in the backseat as my brother and mom ran through the rain into the ugly building. I watched as students hustled to class and into buildings. I looked up at the bridge that runs over Park St. at the engraving “University of Wisconsin – Madison”, to this day I get chills but looking up at that bridge and looking around that street I felt it. I wanted to be here. I wanted to walk over that bridge and be one of those students hustling through the rain to class. During my four years here every time I walked under that bridge I reflect on this trip my family took to UW Madison and get chills thinking back to that day in April and I just think, I made it, I did it, I am where I am suppose to be.  

Graduation Day with my parents, I love you both so much and wouldn't have the success I do without you!
Graduation Day with my parents, I love you both so much and wouldn’t have the success I do without you!

As I reflect on my time here trying to think about the lessons that I learned and what I will take away from the last four years, obviously I received a great education. I will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Environmental Studies and Strategic Communications/Journalism with a certificate (or minor) in Entrepreneurship. I took some great classes learning about subjects like why people form the opinions that they do, how sustainability matters to business, how environmental issues impact people and how to create a marketing or digital campaign book. But the truth is that college is so much more than the classes that you take, it’s about the people that you meet, how you spend the time that you aren’t studying or in class and the decisions that you make.

I met some of my best friends in college the very first day I was on campus. From there it snowballed into finding my family away from home full of friends from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Texas, Michigan, California and all over the country. We were there for each other’s first college parties and college boyfriends. We held each other’s hair back during those nights and stay up late watching movies when we just wanted to stay in. We took part in our first Jump Around together – and on Saturday we’ll get to do it on the field! They were there to celebrate the big birthdays and the tiniest accomplishments. The best part is that these friendships will last longer than the four years we spent on this campus. I hope every college student finds a family similar to the one I found.

Ever since freshman year one of my favorite sayings is “don’t let school get in the way of your education”. To this day I stand by that. Of course there are some nights you have to stay in studying (this night being one of them). But you can’t go seven days of straight studying and homework without A. losing your mind and B. missing out on the rest of your education. Going out and meeting new people, having new experiences and trying something new is what college is truly about. Those days spent wandering around campus or partaking in a pick up game of frisbee of soccer or going to an event you’re only kind of interested in, this is how you figure out what you really want to do.

I sit here at my desk, on my last school night EVER thinking back to my first night college. I had my bed bunked above my desk and dresser in a hot cramped dorm room. I looked over the Gordans dining hall looking west thinking I am here, I am a college student. Now… four years later I am almost a college graduate. How did that happen!? You have to treasure those moments where things feel new and scary. You learn a lot about yourself when you’re uncomfortable and in a new environment. I suppose that is what I learned more these last four years: I am capable of much more than I think. Even in my weakest moments when the world seems like it can’t throw me anything else, it does and I still manage to succeed and have time to sit back on the terrace and have a drink. When everything feels like it is going to hell you can’t sit back and feel sad for yourself you have to step up. You have to recognize everything you have accomplished, all the amazing people that you have met along your way and all the opportunities that are in front of you. College is about learning about yourself and being comfortable in your own skin. Living life with regrets is fine, just as long as you stand by your decisions and are proud of where they got you. My college experience was definitely a roller coaster full of the tallest peaks and the lowest lows, but here as a 22 year old on the eve of her last college final I can say that I would not change anything about my college experience.

I want to thank my professors and advisors who answered all my questions and helped me along the way. I want to raise a glass to my amazing friends who I would never have been able to get through college without and that I can’t wait for this summer and the rest of our lives. My amazing boyfriend who always has my back and believes in me. And lastly and most importantly my family. Without them I would not be graduating on Saturday and would not have been able to pick myself up after those harder falls. I love you all so much, your support means the world to me.  I cannot wait to see where my life takes me, but I know that wherever I go both my school and home families will be there for me.

In the words of one of my favorite musicals:

“Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I’m through with playing by the rules
Of someone else’s game
Too late for second-guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It’s time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes and leap!

It’s time to try
Defying gravity
I think I’ll try
Defying gravity
And you can’t pull me down!”